March 20, 2017
ARLINGTON, Texas -- In the first NIT game played at College Park Center, UTA got a dominating effort - highlighted by 18 points from junior Kaelon Wilson - to post an 85-69 win over Akron in the second round of the 2017 NIT, advancing to the quarterfinal round, in front of 5,390 on Monday night.
UTA (27-8) pieced together a complete effort in the win, extending a record-setting season. The Mavs, the Sun Belt Conference regular-season champion, won their school-record 27th game, improving to 14-0 at College Park Center in 2016-17.
Akron (27-9) was stymied by the stifling defensive pressure of the Mavs throughout the game. UTA led for all but 21 seconds in the game, seeing its lead balloon to 31 with 9:35 left in the contest.
Wilson, who has shined in the starting lineup after an injury to senior starting guard Jalen Jones, chipped in a game-high 18 points - including 11 in the first half - on 7-of-9 shooting, grabbing four rebounds.
The crowd of 5,390 marked the fourth-largest basketball crowd in College Park Center history and factored into the energy on the court throughout the game.
UTA advances to the NIT Quarterfinals vs. CSU Bakersfield set for a Wednesday night tipoff at 8 p.m. (CDT) at College Park Center. Tickets go on sale Tuesday at 10 a.m. at UTATickets.com. The winner will advance to the NIT Final Four, played at Madison Square Garden on March 28-30.
After a sluggish first two minutes as the teams found a rhythm, Hervey answered a triple from the Zips with a three-pointer to open the scoring for the Mavs. UTA then attacked the rim on three straight possessions, getting buckets in the paint from Hervey, Jorge Bilbao and Kaelon Wilson to force an Akron timeout. The Zips answered with five straight points, including a triple from Josh Williams to cut the UTA lead to 9-8. Jorge Bilbao answered on the other end by completing an and-one to give the Mavs a four-point lead with 14 minutes remaining.
The Mavs then mounted an 11-0 run to take a 20-9 lead just under 12 minutes to go, getting 3-pointers from Wilson and Faith Pope and a jumper from Drew Charles. After the Zips went on a run to close the lead to six, UTA got a basket from Hervey at the rim and a roaring dunk from Wilson to force an Akron timeout with 3:33 left and a 34-24 lead. At the half, UTA took a 39-26 lead, getting a game-high 11 points from Wilson.
Erick Neal opened the scoring in the second half with back-to-back three pointers to give UTA a 45-28 lead out of the break. Charles brought the CPC crowd to its feet with a three pointer that stretched the Mavs lead to 20, 50-30 with just under 17 minutes left in regulation. Charles then swiped the ball on the defensive end and found Hervey in transition for a lay-in, giving UTA a 52-30 lead. Charles stayed hot with a triple out of an Akron timeout, giving the Mavs a 23-point advantage and his another with just over 14 minutes left to keep the lead at 23.
After the Zips made three straight field goals, the Mavs got a toughness bucket from Hervey on an offensive rebound to give UTA a 62-38 lead with 13 minutes left. Wilson continued to attack the rim following an Akron trip to the free-throw stripe on the other end and a Neal steal and a nifty assist on a Hawkins dunk gave UTA a 66-40 lead at the under 12-minute timeout, bringing the crowd to its feet. Wilson gave the Mavs a 31-point lead with a triple with 9:20 left in regulation.
Five Mavericks charted double-figure scoring efforts, led by Wilson's 18 points. UTA also got 13 points and seven rebounds from Hervey, 2016-17 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year. Neal added 13 points and nine assists, Charles sank three triples en route to an 11-point effort, and Bilbao added 10 points and nine rebounds.
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